Friday, 27 January 2012

Pagan 101:(Saint) Brigid

Brigid - Christian Saint, Pagan Goddess



Coming up in around a week's time is the Pagan festival of Imbolc, and the Christian festival of Saint Brigid. After reading about both Saint Brigid and the pagan Goddess Brigid I had a real lightbulb moment. 




These two ladies and their festivals certainly have a LOT in common. It would seem that at this time of year (as with many others) Christians and pagans alike celebrate the same sentiments in many of the same ways. 

Since this information is all freely available I won't regurgitate it here. Wikipedia has three good pages related to this: on ImbolcBrigid the pagan Goddess and Brigid of Kildare the Christian saint

War

There has been no end of hostilities between Christians and pagans throughout history, continuing today, and from both sides. I see a lot of 'Christian-bashing' from pagans these days, often centring around the way that many old pagan festivals became 'Christianised'. It reminds me of those fights we'd have as children over games... 'It's MY idea... *I* thought of it first...' used as a justification to be 'in charge' of the game, who it 'belongs to', and ultimately who should have control over it. 



Cartoons such as the one above are shared over the internet, and are probably seen by many as just a bit of fun-poking. But for me they smack of those old racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, or anti-ANY-group 'jokes' that are now considered 'politically incorrect' because they are a symptom of an underlying hatred, prejudice and warmongering that's let's face it, isn't productive and just isn't cool. 

Let There Be Light! (And Peace!)

Saint Brigid adopted several of the traditional pagan customs when she set up her convent at Kildare, most notably this one:
"Nuns at her monastery are said to have kept a sacred eternal flame burning there, which was a custom that originated with female Druids residing at the monastery's location long before Saint Brigid built the monastery." (from Catholic Online)
This practice was later outlawed by the church because it was considered 'too pagan'. But it has since been revived and is perpetuated by both the Christian nun Sisters of St Brigid and pagan followers of the Goddess Brigid. (See here and here).



This then was my lightbulb moment: that the flame of Brigid transcends these religious differences and lights a way of hope and peace between Christians and pagans. As Coinin Carroll puts it:
"One of the reasons I love Ord Brighideach, [a group of 'flamekeepers'] is that we are drawn together, people of different paths, by the warmth of Brighid's flame. I do not think that this harmony can be found anywhere else, and my prayer is that it spreads, like the light and heat of the hearth fire." Coinin Carroll
Referring back to the cartoon above, I hope we pagans can move away from the idea that Christians 'stole' our celebrations and practices, and begin to embrace the attitude of Saint Brigid, that these can and should be SHARED by us all; in peace, in harmony and in CELEBRATION, which is after all, the whole point. 

2 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about those anti-Christian 'jokes': they really irritate me and put me off. I love the thought of Brigid as a bridge between the two!

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  2. Thanks for the comment mistyvalleys. :) I love how Brigid's flame is kept by both Christian nuns and pagans. There's hope for us all yet! It was lovely last year to see how lots of faiths (and people of no particular faith) all joined together in a positive way for the anti-badger-cull ritual, altogether on the same day at the same time. Catholics held a mass, pagans did rituals and athiests sent messages of support and positive thoughts. I hope this sort of co-operation grows. :)

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